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Friday, September 22, 2006

Improvements

Not a lot of knitting over the past couple of days, though I went out and got some larger DPNs and a ball of self-striping sock yarn to play with.

Mother was much improved today. The antibiotics must be doing the trick. No, wait. It's antibiotics, but it's also all the prayers we've been given from around the world. I believe in miracles. God's grace is revealed. God must've moved the doctor's hand and mind to find the right cocktail to knock out the infection, and the right medicine to ease her stomach.

She was perky, like her old self. All of her food stayed down for a change and she ate a good bit. They had her up and walking down the hall (with a walker) and she's able to move on her own again (more energy). I'm feeling very relieved. As long as she stays on this pathway, we'll go on for quite a while. Hopefully I can bring her home early next week.

Thank you all for your prayers! It really does make a difference!

Back to knitworthy knews in a few...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Really, I Do Mention Knitting in this Post

Mother's been in the hospital since Sunday night. She had trouble breathing and looked bad... like she was slipping away. It was terrifying. I called the EMTs. They put her on oxygen and took her in. I followed and stayed with her until she looked "normal" again (which was 3 AM).

It appears to be pneumonia or a similar lung infection. While that isn't great for an elderly person (especially one with cancer), it's better than the other possibilities they gave us before doing x-rays. This option is treatable, curable, and survivable.

But I'm stressed.

The next day, I went about my business as usual. This year, somebody has been in the hospital for a few days at least once a month. It was becoming routine. Trip to the ER, anxious waiting, followed by a few days of medical expertise then either home (in Mother's case) or to a nursing home to recover (Dad, until June). I took it as yet another routine trip. Some of Mother's relatives were coming in to visit for a day, so I had to clean the house. Why, I don't know. They spent the entire time at the hospital and never came near the house. Oh, well, it's clean now.

I talked to her on the phone a couple times during the day—she sounded tired but otherwise ok. I went to see her about an hour before visiting hours were over. Well I should have gone earlier because what I saw scared me so badly that I did not sleep all night. Add in the high dosage of prednisone that I was taking for my bronchitis, and you have full-on paranoid panic attack.

What I saw was a very ill person. She was tired but alert when I arrived, but over the course of the hour, she just faded. I've never seen her like that. Her eyes were rolling back in her head and I couldn't understand her because she was slurring so badly. Then she started staring off in front of her and reaching up with one arm to grab at nothing.

I was TERRIFIED. It brought back memories of Dad on his last day. He was staring at something that wasn't there, too. For the first time, it hit me that she really IS going to leave me all alone in this world, and that The Horrible Day isn't some far-off, abstract concept anymore.

I went home in a panic. I threw up. I paced the floor of the very empty house (I live with Mother since moving back in July after the diagnosis), freaking out. I was afraid to go to sleep because I thought if I did, the phone would ring with bad news. I called the nurse's station a few times over the night to check on her. I slept from 5:00-5:45 AM and woke up in a cold sweat. I finally got up around 7:30 after failing to fall back to sleep and called the hospital. They were changing shifts so the day nurse hadn't seen her yet but based on the night nurse's report, she was doing worse.

ACK!!! PANIC!!!

I downed some coffee, dressed and raced to the hospital, expecting to find her comatose or something.

She was sitting up, wide eyed and alert, eating breakfast with great gusto. She gave me a funny look. I must've looked terrible. Turns out, they'd given her something for the pain and it made her groggy. Nice to tell ME about that. No, just scare me to death instead. When our doctor arrived at noon, I told him about my night. His eyes grew wide and he said "Discontinue the prednisone immediately—don't take anymore". Turns out, I'd had a severe reaction to it which caused the paranoia, the panic attack, the nausea, etcetera.

I feel much better today as far as that goes. But I've been worried since Monday night despite her improvement Tuesday morning. I stayed all day at the hospital with her, leaving only long enough to take a nap while her relatives visited. I stayed all day today, too. But she didn't look as good today. Again, the fears set in as I realize that she might really be on the verge of leaving me. Then I find out, they removed her oxygen in order to try to qualify her for a home oxygen tank, which means they basically make you sick long enough to get the reading they need so they can make you better. It's crazy. So her sats (oxygen saturation) had dropped to 87%. Er, no wonder she's groggy, tired, and drawn.

While she naps, I knit. Or try to. I started the ARAN BABY SWEATER but I think it'll be started over. It's not going well. I'm so tense I can hardly knit. It's slower than a beginner. Plus I keep losing my place in the very simple pattern and having to frog it. Twelve rows in two days with all day knitting. Not good.

I'm not sure why I feel differently this time around. Maybe because she was just released a week ago after a few days in the hospital. Maybe because of the reminders of Dad (she says it was a hallucination, and objects, not people or angels). Maybe because I've never seen her look THAT bad before. Maybe because I've never seen her so sick that it took two nurses to transfer her to the chair so she could sit up and have a bath. I've never considered that she might not pull through—until now. Then again, I had pneumonia once. I laid on the couch coughing for a month straight. I'll bet I resembled her in many ways during that.

All I know is that I need her here a while longer. Perhaps if I abandon the negative panicky train of thought and remind myself daily (hourly) that of course she looks sick (cancer and pneumonia), but she's being treated (antibiotics) and she's pulled through worse things before, and people can look far worse, as in hanging on by a shredded thread and still come through... treat this as another routine stay... focus on getting her healthy and home... talk a lot with God... then she really will come home and be healthy and not need two nurses by her side.

I wonder how long it takes before prednisone fully leaves the system?

If anyone actually reads this, please keep my Mother in your prayers. She's got a lot of living left to do and there are people who need her here desperately.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Why the 0%?

You may be wondering why I bothered including two projects under WIPs that have 0% progress on them.

I feel the need to explain. :-) I do that a lot, as you will discover.

Priscilla's Dream Socks is a lovely pattern for a streamlined, short-row heel & toe sock designed by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts (author of Simple Socks: Plain and Fancy. (It's a subscriber download on Interweave's site). I found some Sirdar Snuggly yarn in a luscious lilac and came home eager to knit. So why the delay? Well...

One of my first knitting projects was a pair of what I now call Awful Socks. I wanted a pair of thick, warm, boot socks but for some reason chose to knit them out of inexpensive, coarse, itchy, hideous dark brown handspun wool. (What was I thinking?!? and yes, they are a wonderful example of Extreme Beginner Knitting!)

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I must have understood the concept of knitting on DPNs at one time because I managed to successfully finish not one but TWO socks—a whole pair! So when I sat down with my lovely skein of lilac Sirdar Snuggly and a set of four size 2 DPNs, cast on (after swatching, of course) and began to knit... disaster struck.

I didn't remember knitting on DPNs to be as difficult as this. Hmm, I think. Maybe it's the needle size (much smaller this time) but I can't seem to get in there and work the stitches. Geez, it's hard!

I truly believe I'm doing it correctly. After all, as I recall, it's the same as knitting on circulars except these make a square... right? My four DPNs form a perfect square. I've joined the yarn. I'm holding the needle on the left side of the square in my left hand and using the top needle as my RH needle. The other two needles are dangling beneath my work. I'm struggling and struggling and cannot get the hang of it. I frog it. I re-cast. Struggle a few rows (this can't be right, I've an extra stitch somehow). Frog it. Re-cast. Struggle. This time I'm not only saying "Frog it" but I'm replacing the "rog" with another set of letters. *ahem*

Finally, in absolute disgust with myself, I wind the yarn back onto the skein, put the DPNs back in the needle case, snarl at the pattern and resolve never to waste my time knitting on DPNs ever again. But the yarn keeps calling to me.

A few days later, Knitty Gritty broadcast a show on sock knitting, and I happened to page through one of the gajillion reference books I've acquired in preparation for the Masters, and that's when I found the bit on knitting on DPNs—

Oops.

*blush*

So if you have four DPNs, you use three for cast-on, and the fourth to knit with? And you knit on the needle on the RIGHT side of the triangle (or if using a set of five, the right side of the square)?

Oh, duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Therefore, the project is still on the list, now that I have seen the error of my ways. It will live to be cast-on again. But it's on backburner for now while I develop this blog and work on my Masters swatches.

The Aran Baby Sweater & Hat set is at 0% because I've only just decided to do it. But since it might be either a Christmas present or baby gift (depending on whether Christmas comes first or another friend gets pregnant), it must be on the list. (This list isn't just for you, ya know! LOL! It's also my reminder notice!)

In other news, it's official, I have bronchitis either "again" or "still" depending on how you look at it. About three weeks ago I came down with a scratchy sore throat, cough, and general malaise. I went to the doctor when it didn't go away after a week. (It's been a hard year. I'll talk about this right now, but I'd rather focus on my knitting escapades than on depressing subjects. My beloved Dad got sick in December 2005 after falling and breaking his hip and shoulder and was in and out of nursing homes until his death at 88 on June 7th, and my 86-year-old Mother needed lots of help because he really was her Main Man in every way. She's fully cognizant and mobile with a walker, but she has cataracts, severe osteoporosis, and asthma. She no longer drives, so in addition to being her chauffeur, Dad took care of all of the financial, legal and household matters including cleaning. So she really couldn't get along without him while he was in the nursing home. A month after my father died, she was diagnosed with advanced cancer of the esophagus and liver and given a poor prognosis—three months to two years, now that's what I call "being precise"—so I packed up my house, my five cats, and my yarn stash and moved back home to take care of her. Ah, the benefits of being "between careers, relationships and children", of which I have none. :-) Yes, it's the hardest thing I've ever done and hopefully will ever do, but she needs me and I need her and this is the way it is. But because I've seen the inside of way too many hospitals, nursing homes and doctor's offices in the course of nine months, I was very reluctant to go for myself.)

Doc put me on a five-day Z-pack antibiotic and Entex. On Day 6, I felt good again. By Day 7, I began to feel not so good again. By Day 9, Mother was in the hospital (nothing major, a bit of weakness but they wanted to observe her for strokes and get her feeling better) and I thought the "break" would allow me to recover.

Apparently, it didn't, because the day after I brought her back home, I woke up feeling twice as bad as the first time. This time, it's a 10-day antibiotic (a "real" one, it comes in a bottle, not a cardboard blister pack) plus a high-dose course of steroids (prednisone). Interesting feeling, that. I'm exhausted and want to sleep, but wired out of my gourd at the same time. And I have the hiccups. But my back and knee don't hurt anymore (prednisone apparently has anti-inflammatory agents as well).

About the back and knee and then I refuse to discuss my health like some senior citizen (which I ain't, I'm the baby of the family and only in my 40s): the knee has broken cartilege resulting from a lovely fall on my former tile floor last November, and my back... well, it's a mystery. My other blog, which is somewhat inactive right now, concerns my horsemanship activities. I was thrown from my horse five years ago because I wasn't savvy enough to read him, and sprained my back badly and developed all sorts of fear issues (too long to go into here, it's in the other blog). Luckily I found Parelli Natural Horse-Man-Ship and I've never looked back. I even learned how to dismount safely in an emergency and practiced it diligently.

Ironically, the one time I went against all I've learned and got on a horse I shouldn't have, I fell AGAIN (in May, at a NON-Parelli clinic). To my credit, it wasn't my horse, it wasn't my saddle, and I really had no business being on that horse in that clinic, but that's another long story about why I was up there on that horse and I won't tell it in a knitting blog. :-) Suffice it to say, I made an ungraceful failed emergency dismount but was unhurt save for the bruise on my butt and my ego. But my back started feeling out of whack and lately it feels like one vertebrae is off kilter. Doc had me xrayed and the results come back next week. He asked how I felt about chiropractors. I said "I've used them on my horse"...

Excuse my verbosity tonight. I just love being this wired. Gack. It's 5:09 AM. Must sleep! Cannot knit well when tired!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Bear With Me...

...as I tweak and re-tweak the template.

IRL, it's imperative that I clear off my desk and assemble all of my tools before beginning a project. Same goes for knitting. Everything must be neatly lined up and ready to go before one stitch goes on the needle. I've tried to dive in head-first without doing this, but it drives me crazy trying to work in a jumble.

So, since my knitting/fibers blog is still in a jumble, alas I must tweak until it is where I want it.

Not a lot of knitting going on right now, but I did pull out the Spiked Crochet Baby Sweater and crochet a few rows, and I unearthed another page's worth of WIP's.

*sigh*

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Tunisian, Anyone?

This blog itself is a WIP! I guess if I weren't so picky about design elements and getting everything "just right", it would be easier.

There is a huge black ant in my room. I swear I threw him out the front door three days ago after he ran across me in my sleep (waking me up), yet here he is again! Or maybe it's a different ant. Oh no. That's not a good thought to be having right before bed. Hey—where did he go? Uh-oh...

Anyway, I've started listing my works. Since I do more than knitting, I thought it would be helpful to indicate which—er, method? technique?—is used for each project. Hence the KN, CR, TC notations. Don't worry, I'll work the bugs out and put a glossary above that section in the sidebar rather than repeat it each time. I suppose I'll have to add WV (weaving) and SP (spinning) in the future. Should there also be SW for sewing, or is that just too much?

Some of you may be wondering about the TC Tunisian Crochet designation. I am absolutely fascinated with it after discovering it this summer. Tunisian Crochet, for the uninitiated, is a technique that IMHO is a strange blend of knitting and crocheting. It is referred to by many names, most commonly "Afghan". Wikipedia's blurb describes it most simply:

Tunisian crochet, also known as Afghan crochet, uses an elongated hook with a stopper on the handle end, called an Afghan hook.

In Afghan crochet, each row is worked in two halves: the first half is worked from right to left and the second half from left to right. Work is never turned.

After the starting chain is completed, the first row is worked by inserting the hook in the chain, pulling a loop from the free end of the yarn, and inserting the hook in the next chain without working the loop off the hook. At the end of the row, you will have as many loops on the hook as there are stitches across. In the second half of the row, you will work the loops off the hook.

This type of crochet creates a dense fabric with a definite front and back side. It is ideal as a base for cross-stitch.


I'm really excited about it. What happened was, I chose some yarn intended for my horse's Fly Mask project. Two yarns, in the clearance bin at JoAnn's—Sensations Bellezza Collection Petalo "Blue Raspberry" (no photos of that exact yarn but Margherita is close, Petalo is more turquoise and white) and Sensations Baja "Turquoise":



Margherita (Petalo)

Baja


I was playing around with them and found I liked the effect when they are twisted together. I'd just discovered Tunisian and needed "scrap" yarn to practice with—so I used Petalo and Baja together, figuring if I get bends in my yarn afterward, no biggie, it's just going to be made into a horse mask.

Surprise, the swatch was INCREDIBLE!!! Lush, soft, textured, very fast to crochet up, yet dense like knitting. I knew what had to be done. I was now going to be making myself a Tunisian Sweater! Darn it! This is much too nice, even for my beloved equines.

I scrapped the idea of making Horse Fly Masks out of it and went on a major Yarn Crawl to every JoAnn's within 25 miles, scarfing up every last ball of Petalo and Baja in existence. Now, I'm in design mode. I'm thinking tunic length with bell sleeves. Petalo for the body, with Baja edges.

Oh, this will be cool! I hope. First off, I've never designed anything knitwise or crochetwise, let alone a sweater. I've done lots of sewing and took garment design classes in college, but knitwear is another story. Secondly, I'm brand new to Tunisian. Do I even have enough yarn? It might not be tunic length by the end, LOL! But that's the story on that.

I found another yarn for my horse.

It's occurred to me that most of my FO's are crocheted, not knitted, and many are baby projects. Explanation: no, I am NOT expecting. Blame my niece for the infant-wear. She and her DH adopted a baby girl (Leah) from China almost a year ago and upon returning home, she discovered she was pregnant. Her DH threatened to name the new baby Bogo (Buy One Get One). Kera was born July 13 and she is the very first recipient of a truly Finished Object! For me, this was a huge triumph. Not only did I finish the project, but I finished it completely, buttons and all, before the child was born (big news) AND got it in the mail while it still fits! LOL!

Now, to weave in the ends on Mother's shawl...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ucchhh

Darn Rhinovirus.

Thought I had it licked last week but it's back and I feel awful. On the upside, my yarn ball winder arrived yesterday—now I just need a swift—as did two knitting books—Montse Stanley's classic "Knitter's Handbook : A Comprehensive Guide to the Principles and Techniques of Handknitting" and Maggie Righetti's "Knitting in Plain English". Good! Juicy reading. Someone said on a forum that Stanley's book has examples of 40 different ways to cast on!

I've definitely been on a book-buying binge. I'm waiting on Righetti's "Sweater Design in Plain English" as well as Jacqueline Fee's "Sweater Workshop" that are scheduled to arrive this weekend. Then there are the two that won't be published until October...

Enough about books. Will I have time to actually knit, or just read about it? LOL!

Next post, I think I'll see if it'll work if I put my swatches on my scanner and scan them in. Off to blow my nose (again).

Up For the Challenge?

So you knit. That’s great! But have you really challenged yourself lately?

What’s that you say? You knit a gorgeous cabled Aran sweater for your now-ex-bf? You’ve tried your hand at intarsia?

Awesome.

But if you REALLY want a challenge, do what I'm doing. Take on the TKGA Master Hand Knitting Program.

What is it?

Well, it sounds simple:
  • knit up 16 swatches per the provided instructions;

  • write a report on a given topic related to knitting;

  • answer a bunch of questions (like a take-home quiz); and,

  • knit a final project.

Submit it in a three-ring binder and wait for the results.

It’s harder than it sounds.

The swatches must be PERFECT. Even tension, proper uses of cast-ons and bind-offs, proper use of various techniques such as increases, decreases and cables… my knitting had improved by the second swatch! What, you mean I have to pay attention to details?!? *gasp* And research everything? Oh, my. This sounds a lot like SCHOOL.

I’m only up to the 6th swatch (say THAT three times fast while I hold the umbrella) but I already know I’m glad to be taking this challenge. I know some of my swatches may come back with instructions to re-knit them, but that’s OK. Because I’ll benefit in the end. My knitting will improve and I might actually learn something!

Dare to join me? ;-)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Casting On

And so, I hereby "cast-on" my knitting blog!

That first row is always the hardest. Before I get into anything, I'm off to shop for blog templates because this one is merely a... blogstitch holder. *grin* (Sorry.) (Wait. No I'm not.) *wink*

Back in a few short rows...